5G LTE expansion card

The only real use for a custom designed RJ-45 model is for serial which is already done.

If it’s taller (z-height), then it could be used for a lot of dual-function purposes, and/or fitting m.2s or mini-pcie devices in at a diagonal, where they would be millimeters shy of not fitting in a regular-sized one

My reasoning for wanting this:

Are there any use cases exist for this that wouldn’t be served by tethering to eg- a less expensive cell phone?

I’m not interested in any internal radio in my laptop, including wifi, although I do have interest in modules for networking, but for most countries where I could or would buy data SIMs, I wouldn’t necessarily want one in my laptop that didn’t also include GPS.

And most of that reason is made moot if someone can remove it easily, so I suppose some kind of module locks would need to exist first…

5G access now is good enough that it can supplant wifi in many situations, very helpful for on-the-go individuals.
Tethering often incurs seperate charges because mobile carriers are parasites.

I’m currently very happy with a 3G-modem in my thinkpad laptop (which I hope to replace with a framework one soon). I’ve used wifi tethering when on the road, but recently set up the internal 3G modem and now connecting to the internet while on the road is a matter of clicking “connect”, with no need to get out my phone to enable the hotspot. I have multiple SIM cards all sharing the same data bundle from a single subscription, so there’s really no difference in cost either.

So for me, cell data connectivity in the framework laptop would be a matter of convenience, and would also prevent draining my phone battery (yes, I can charge my phone from my laptop, but that the hassle with cables even more thoroughly destroys the convenience factor…).

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This argument drives me nuts to be honest. The very reason why I want LTE built in to my laptop is that I am sick of having to use mobile hotspot (which does nothing but burn up batteries unnecessarily) and MiFi devices (which are universally terrible)!


Agreed, once you’ve used a laptop with built-in cell data, you realize hotspots are a poor substitute.

It’s similar to the difference between syncing files with Dropbox versus moving them around manually on a flash drive. Once you’ve tried the new way, the old way seems painful and archaic.


If they can put a 4G modem in a watch (Apple, Samsung, Google, etc), then putting one in an expansion card doesn’t seem like that big of an engineering challenge (at least for a big company).

When you’re using a phone as a hotspot, the LTE Modem and the WiFi card are both working basically constantly. WiFi is surprisingly power hungry, meaning constant WiFi activity is one of the fastest ways to drain a battery, and the battery in the phone is much smaller than the one in a laptop. When the LTE modem is in the laptop, you’re only ever using one or the other.

Add to that the fact that the laptop is likely to be plugged in when I get to a desk but the phone isn’t. The phone might get the odd 15 minutes of wireless charging before I have to go do something somewhere else that I may or may not need the laptop for, but the phone always stays with me…

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Case in point: I’m planning to have a Formula 1 party this weekend for the US Grand Prix. I’m using the outdoor grilling area at my apartment complex, which has a TV, but I’d prefer to stream the race over the F1 TV app (no commercials, more options, etc).

There’s no open/guest Wi-Fi in this area, so it’s going to have to be 4G/5G. I’ll bring my Roku TV down here, as I can’t access HDMI on the wall mounted TV. That leaves me with two options:

Option1: use my phone as a hotspot and connect the Roku TV to it.
Option2: stream the race on my Lenovo X1 Carbon, which has built-in 4G, and plug that into the Roku TV via HDMI.

I’m down here doing some testing right now and the results explain why this thread exists, IMO. Note: both devices are using Verizon, I used Fast.com in both cases for speed measurements.

Using my Pixel 5 as a hotspot:
Down: 520 Kbps
Up: 760 Kbps

Using the built-in 4G in my X1 Carbon:
Down: 4.1Mbps
Up: 160Mbps

In short, I was able to stream an hour of live content on F1 TV on my Lenovo, no problem. No buffering, no drops in quality - it was perfect. Using my Framework through my Pixel 5, I couldn’t even get streaming to start - the website refused to even try.

This is representative of what I often use 4G in a laptop for. Periodically, I’ll get together with my kids and parents on the weekend for a picnic in a park. My sister lives about 1000 miles away, so we’ll connect her in over Facebook messenger. I’ll bring my Lenovo X1 Carbon and a Logitech webcam, and AV streaming functions perfectly every time. I just set up the laptop on a table and it’s like she’s right there with us.

A phone doesn’t work because the screen is too small and the audio isn’t great. For 5 people, the laptop is the perfect form factor for this (though I could also see a 12-inch iPad Pro with 4G/5G working well for this also, but I don’t have one of those).


So, is anyone close to building one out? Would love to support it. :slight_smile:

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No, I don’t think so. The challenge is that existing 4G/5G M.2 cards are too big to fit in an expansion slot. Ideally, for the best performance, you’d want a proper antenna installation inside the case of the laptop anyway.

Looking at the design of the 4G modem and antenna in my X1 Carbon, I think I could hack it into the Framework laptop, but I’d have to lose:

  1. The WiFi card, because I’d need that M.2 slot, and
  2. The speakers, because I’d need that space to install the antennas.

Loss of the speakers isn’t a big deal for me, I don’t use them very often. Loss of Wi-Fi could be fixed by adding an external USB dongle.

If I have some time in the next few weeks, I might try it.


Wonder if a 2230 sized SIM/cellular module would fit in an expansion card? :thinking:

Most of the smallest modules don’t actually incorporate the SIM card slot directly on the card, assuming the system manufacturer has one wired in elsewhere.

Option 3, get a GL.iNet router and use it with your phone via USB or connected to the wireless hotspot and enjoy a much faster wireless or longer range plus if going the USB route the ability to have your phone discharge more slowly.

Nah, I didn’t want to have to buy anything additional. I used the 4G built into my Lenovo X1 laptop and it worked great!

I’ve been looking for an LTE/Wi-Fi gateway for an annual conference I put on though, and some of these GL.iNet routers look like they might work for what I need.

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I know this is an old thread, but somebody asked above if there was a use case for a internal modem vs a hotspt; I have once stayed in an airbnb that didn’t have wifi, and for some reason, my mifi (hotspot device) was unable to get a signal, but my laptop’s internal modem WAS able to get a signal, with the same sim.

I get that it’s a bit of an edge case but by the same token, if you don’t have a mifi and you’re working on the road, can a mobile phone provide both a hotspot and be used for calls at the same time?

I’d also add that as far as I can tell, it’s going to be much easier to wait for an m.2 antenna that has bt, wifi and 5G, and just use the existing slot, and find a way to route the additional antenna along with the existing ones than it will be to spend engineering resources trying to fit a 5G modem and antenna into an expansion card, thereby using an additional slot as well.

Wouldn’t it just make more sense to get Framework to add the antennas for LTE/5G built into the laptops, and leave an open PCIe based port on future motherboard designs, and allow it as an option? I just can’t see a module based LTE/5G device having practical antenna, or having some way to route out to the module without seriously altering the method in place now to work with existing modules.

Not having LTE (neither onboard nor as an expansion card) was the reason I did not order a framework today. Definitely need it. Been using Lenovo for a while now, but not as flexible as framework.

Hope it will be available soon.

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